BEST OF THE YEAR Winners of 2010

For our year end Best Of list I opened the voting up to a larger contingent of critics than just The New Schoolers (who narrowed it down to the nominations). I polled the likes of Jeff Alworth (Beervana), Bill Night (It's Pub Night), Charles Culp (An Ear for Beer), Derek Arent (ex-Beer Around Town), Dave Selden (33 Beers), Jason Wallace (Portland Beer & Music), Brady Walen (The Daily Pull), and, of course, New School contributors themselves: SNOB Ritch, ElGordo, Ben Edmunds, and myself. My hope was to get some sort of consensus on the 10 categories I chose, sort of like the NWBN Readers Choice Awards. These awards, however, are picked by the people who spend all of their free time (and some of their professional time) writing, talking, and thinking about beer as amateur or professional critics, not by some sleazy ballot-stuffing initiative by the likes of Columbia River Brewing. Tallying the votes I felt as if I had a horse in the race and I had bet my life savings on it, but I didn't even know which horse was mine.

Our Top 10

Best of the Year Nominations

Like every site is doing this time of the year, The New School has been working on compiling a Best of the Year list covering a variety of categories. Similar to NWBN's Best of the Year Reader's Choice Poll, ours is voted upon by various New School contributors to narrow down the nominations to a reasonable and fair number. Much like our review panels, the Best of the Year will be decided by not one but many. Our votes are counted anonymously and compiled by the accounting firm of EJ & G. The final winners will be announced by the end of the week.

Review Panel: Samuel Adams Infinium

Samuel Adams' latest release, a collaboration with Weihenstephan, appeared last week in the Portland market like a rabbit from a magician's hat just before New Years Eve. Brewed under the traditions of the Reinheitsgebot German purity law just in time for the holidays, Infinium is marketed as a beer for men who would rather have a beer, but still feel compelled to drink champagne (huh?) on NYE. More on this here.

Sneak Preview - Burnside Brewing Co. Opens Tuesday

Christmas is coming 3 days late this year when Burnside Brewing Co. opens its doors this Tuesday. This event comes with eager anticipation from the Portland beer and food communities. Apparently my article last week, Burnside Brewing Company: Reinventing the Brewpub, created quite a stir, and I think rightfully so. Tuesday the public will get a small taste of what is to come from Burnside, as the crew is still testing recipes and the first house-brewed beer will not be ready until next weekend. I got another sneak peek and sampled some of their treats that I am going to share with you now...

Review Panel: The Bruery 3 French Hens

Fitting for a Christmas day review is 3 French Hens by The Bruery. The confusingly-named, Belgian-esque brewery in the awkwardly named Placentia, California, has been building up a huge buzz over the last few years for its abbey- and farmhouse-inspired ales that are often of an extreme nature. Now on its 3rd edition comes the latest in their annual 12 beers of Christmas limited release line of beers, a la Stone's Vertical Epic series. The beer changes every year but is meant to be cellared. This year's version is 3 French Hens, a Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale.

An Evening of Epic Ale Proportions

Today (Tuesday the 21st) Belmont Station is hosting Roots Organic Brewing co-founder Craig Nicholls for a special night of huge beer, with a vertical tasting of Roots' famed Epic Ale. Roots, which closed earlier this year, was fraught with controversy after co-owner Jason Mcadam split, rumors of a sale of the business surfaced, and Craig came under fire right here for questionable business practices at the NAOBF, which he also owns. He later responded to those allegations in an interview with me here. All that does not change the fact that Epic Ale is a classic, and probably the most decadent organic beer ever created. It truly does improve with age. More on this below.

Celebrate New Years with the New School!

It's hard to believe, but The New School is turning 1 year old.

Fittingly, I posted the very first article on the New School on January 1st, 2010. Our first year has been hectic, but we have made it and will be celebrating both the New School and the New Year this NYE with special rare barrel-aged beers, prizes, and more at one of Portland's hottest new beer bars. Click through to find out more.

Review Panel: Deschutes The Abyss 2010

This year's release of the highly anticipated Deschutes The Abyss came with a little less buzz than previous installments, perhaps because there is so much more of it available these days. I remember a few years ago when people lined up outside Belmont Station's doors for the chance to buy a bottle and we fielded phone calls all year long asking if we might just have a bottle. Thus I approached this year's release with trepidation.

The Ultimate Guide to Beer Geeky Gifts

If your anything like myself (and most likely you are), then you have procrastinated on your holiday shopping and probably spend as much on yourself when you do actually go shopping. Also, you might just be geeky enough to like some handy beer-themed gadgets, tools, body products, and/or jewelery. I have assembled a list (complete with snarky comments) of the best items for the beer geek in your life.

Luckily, the Budweiser USB storage device pictured above is fictional, but below you will find some useful and some admittedly gimmicky devices below...

Hopworks The Pogues Tribute Beer & Taplister Holiday Party

Today (Friday) local favorite Pogues tribute band K.M.R.I.A. is performing at the Secret Society Ballroom and beer writer Abram Goldman-Armstrong has crafted a beer for the evening on Hopworks pilot nano system Hopomatic called Celto Punk Stout. On Saturday Taplister has teamed up with Migration Brewing for a Holiday Pre-Funk Party with special beers and canned food drive to benefit the Oregon Food Bank.
Find out more about both these events and why you should probably attend them below...

Review Panel: New Belgium/Allagash Vrienden

Two American heavyweights of Belgian-style beers have teamed up to make Vrienden, a collaboration between Allagash of Portland, Maine, and New Belgium of Fort Collins, Colorado. Recently released on the west coast as part of New Belgium's Lips of Faith series of experimental beers, Vrienden is a decidedly Farmhouse-style brew that usies wild yeasts, bacteria and herbs. This is a promising release from New Belgium, which often delivers when breaking out of the Fat Tire box. Our review panel put it to the test.

Burnside Brewing Company: Reimagining the Brewpub

Burnside Brewing is the brewery your brewery has wet dreams about.

From founders Jason McAdam, one of the original owners and founders of the late great Roots Organic Brewing, Jay Gilbert, recently of Full Sail, and Adam Cassie comes the most exciting new brewing venture in years. In fact, when I founded and named The New School places like Burnside were exactly what I had in mind, with their truly epic plans for the "deconstruction" and "reconstruction" of the PDX brewpub scene these partners have in store for us. To begin, I must start with the heart of any good brewing operation, the Brewmaster...

Exit Interview: Walking Man's Jacob Leonard

Jacob Leonard, photo from

Last week John Foyston dropped the bombshell on OregonLive that longtime Walking Man Head Brewer Jacob Leonard was leaving the small but highly esteemed brewpub to take a job as a shift brewer at Widmer brothers. Tomorrow (Tuesday) Belmont Station will host a Jacob Leonard Appreciation Night and Fundraiser for the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation, featuring special beers from Walking Man and Widmer. In honor of the occasion and to recognize Jacob's great work, I interviewed him about the special beers they will be pouring, why he is leaving Walking Man, and what is in store for him and the brewery.

Staggering Toward Beerhalla: Thanksgiving in Bingen

"Wrap it in bacon and cook it in beer" was the theme of this year's get together at the Bingen School House, in Bingen, Washington, just north of Hood River, Oregon. The School House is a 1930's public school that has been turned into a hostel and hotel of sorts. It's a fun place to stay the night after partying in Hood River, and a short cab ride across the river takes the DUI of driving back to Portland out of the equation.

New Brew Odyssey: The Short List for Bartenders of the Year

The Northwest Brewing News presented its annual Readers Choice Awards for 2010 last week at the Widmer brewery. The list of winners included many usual suspects, such as numerous awards for Deschutes, Hopworks, and Ninkasi , as well as several surprises—newbie Columbia River brewing snagged four awards in the various “best of” styles categories. The preponderance of winners from Oregon is probably more telling about the readership (and voters) of the NW Brewing News than is does about the superiority of Oregon beer, though a longer assay of that aspect of the awards is fodder for a different column.

First Look: Grain & Gristle

Grain & Gristle
, the much anticipated beer bar and eatery from co-owners Alex Ganum of Upright Brewing, Ben Meyer of Ned Ludd, and Marcus Hoover of Roses Restaurant Supply, is set to open its doors this month. The new spot will take up residence next to neighborhood favorites Podnah's Pit and Tiga on NE Prescott and 15th.

The New School got the first exclusive sneak peek at the new bar yesterday, as well as word of a soft opening date. But first, read our interview with Ben Meyer as a primer on the G & G.

Lots of pretty photos below...

New Beer bar and Bottle Shop: The Hop Haven

The Hop Haven has been open for a few weeks now, flying completely under the radar at NE Broadway and 21st. I had been keeping tabs on it, but finally stopped in for a brew to check the place out last week.

Samuel Adams: To Infinium and Beyond

Samuel Adams has been a respected pillar of the craft brewing community for years, but I am starting to wonder if the brewery's best years are behind it. With recent stunts like the Beef Heart beer and the new attempt to create a new beer style in Infinium, it sort of feels like Sam Adams is trying to claw its way back into the hearts of beer geeks. Perhaps this all stems from the brewery's recent removal from "craft brewer" status. You see, Sam Adams is on the precipice of, or has already passed, producing 2 million barrels a year, which makes it officially too big to be considered a "craft" brewer anymore. Meanwhile, Owner/Brewer Jim Koch is trying to redefine the term both legally and philosophically, writing his own definition of "craft brewer" for the brewery's website:
"Annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels or annual production of beer exceeds 2 million barrels and the brewery was founded as a Craft Brewer and continues to satisfy the other Craft Brewer defining criteria."

Full Sail: Bump in the Night Cascadian Dark Ale

I don't usually post press releases but I am excited for the release of Full Sail's first Cascadian Dark Ale adding even more cred to the movement. I interviewed Full Sail Brewmaster John Harris and 2 other brewers about their CDA's not long ago. Check that feature out here and click through for the press release.

Coalition Evolution Project

Coalition Brewing put much time and thought into their winter strong ale "Lost Glove" running a total of 5 test batches with slight changes. Some as drastic as completely different yeast strains to just hopping more or less and attenuating further. As a cool fun experiment they are sharing all 5 batches with the public today - Sunday at The Beermongers to see if you can taste and pinpoint the differences and to better understand the evolution of a beer. As a good example of this I found the sample of Lost Glove I received at the Holiday Ale Fest media preview to be very piney and dank especially in aroma but when I had it on tap later to be more balanced and less herbaceous. Sure enough it turns out that sample was from an earlier test batch with higher hopping.
Coalition Brewers will be on hand from 5 to 7pm at The Beermongers and will have some cool prizes to give out too.

Also as a reward for being a loyal reader of the New School I offer two hints for the trivia: 1728 and 1338

The Beermongers
Corner of SE 12th & Division
(1125 SE Division)
Portland, OR 97202
Open 11am - 9pm daily
(503) 234 6012 

Holiday Ale Festival 2010: The Good

On Wednesday I decided to forsake the big Deschutes Abyss release party and instead opted for the Holiday Ale Festival and Spints Alehouse's 1 Year Anniversary party. I arrived at HAF early, perhaps while other beer geeks were quaffing Abyss verticals down the street. I expected to find a line, but remarkably I was the first person there!

Holiday Ale Festival 2010: The Bad

I have decided to break my coverage of the Holiday Ale Fest 2010 into 2 posts. "The Good" will have to wait until this afternoon; for now, I'm just giving you "The Bad". With any fest there are good and bad elements, but I have not felt this divided on a fest before, so I've had to split my article in two. Below is my account of the things that frustrated me most about this festival.

The Beer Fashioned

Today we return briefly to the art of the beer cocktail with a video I found for a wonderfully simple easy to make beer cocktail from Claire Thomas and the Kitchy Kitchen.
Regretfully it is not summer but I think this drink should be delightful anytime of the year.

The Beer Fashioned from Claire Thomas on Vimeo.